Continued good conditions for Swedish development assistance in Latin America

REPLY There are several reasons to question the motives behind Sida's proposal to phase out aid to Bolivia, Colombia and Guatemala - that aid is not cost-effective and can be more useful in other countries. The phasing out threatens to destroy the Latin American trust in Sweden that has been built up over decades, writes David Scott, who previously evaluated aid to Guatemala on behalf of the now defunct evaluation authority Sadev.

As part of concentrating Swedish development assistance to fewer countries, Sida has decided to submit a budget document to the government to focus development assistance on countries where Sweden can make a greater difference. This may mean that aid to Latin America will be phased out.

The background to the country concentration that the budget basis for 2014 and 2016 proposes is that Sweden should invest its resources in low-income countries where real difference can be achieved and not in countries where development assistance is not judged to be cost-effective. This, says Sida's CEO Charlotte Petri Gornitzka in one debate article in Svenska Dagbladet, may mean that aid to Latin America, which today goes to Bolivia, Colombia and Guatemala, may be phased out. This is because these are today counted as middle-income countries where Swedish development assistance has a limited effect on poverty reduction.

The proposal has met with criticism from Swedish aid organizations and there are many reasons to question the argument that aid to Latin America is not cost-effective and that it can be more useful in other countries. As an employee of the government agency Sadev, which between 2006 and 2012 had the mandate to evaluate the effectiveness of Swedish development assistance, I had the opportunity to review the results of the Sida-funded development assistance in Guatemala, one of the countries threatened by phasing out. Despite the difficult post-conflict situation that prevails in the country, I and my employees could see that results had been achieved in an impressive way. At Sadev, two major evaluations of aid to Guatemala were carried out, one examining the support specifically for democracy and human rights, the other results generated in the framework of the 2008-2012 cooperation strategy. Personally, I was mainly involved in the evaluation of the cooperation strategy and was able to conclude that Sweden has contributed to important results in the priority areas of democracy and human rights, sustainable poverty-oriented growth and health. I was most impressed by the results of one of the initiatives studied in the democracy and human rights sector: "PAJUST", a reconciliation program that aims to bring clarity to the internal conflict that plagued the country between 1960 and 1996. Through the initiative, police archives have documented human rights abuses have been opened, war criminals have been convicted and people have been able to bury their relatives who previously lay in unmarked mass graves. Even more long-term results such as strengthening the state's capacity to respect human rights could be observed.

An important reason for the success is that Sweden has established itself as a reliable aid actor in the country. This has generated a high degree of respect from other donors and organizations.

An important reason for the success is that Sweden has established itself as a reliable aid actor in the country. This has generated a high degree of respect from other donors and organizations. This credibility is at least as important in the context of development aid as money and is central to creating favorable conditions for development cooperation.

This indicates that there are still good conditions for contributing more support to the sensitive post-conflict situation Guatemala is in. The same applies to Colombia, which, if the peace negotiations are successful, will then need support in the difficult process of demobilization and state-building that is taking over. after a possible peace agreement. The experience from Guatemala can then also be used.

To completely phase out aid to Latin America would not only mean that the priority countries would lose financial support, it would also mean that the trust capital Sweden had built up over decades could not be used to deal with the challenges of poverty, democracy and human rights and peace and security that Latin America will continue to face. Together with the efforts of voluntary organizations, continued bilateral assistance could continue to contribute to favorable development in the region.

David Scott, political scientist and former employee at Sadev


This is a debate article. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

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